Music for the people

Dr Saida Khalilova

After my first arrival to the Sultanate in August 2011, I consider it one of the most pleasant and important turning points in my life.
The department of Music and Musicology was established at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in 2008, a few years before my arrival.
I started work at the Department of Music and Musicology in the Arts and Social Sciences College, SQU from 2011.
One of the most beautiful aspects about Oman was its people and their heartwarming hospitality and character. The incredibly peaceful attitude of the citizens made it easy to adapt and feel welcomed.
I was astonished how the citizens and expatriates loved the Sultan and how much they trusted and admired him. This fascinated me and it did not take much time to understand and begin to share the same sentiments myself.
I have observed the progress the country made under His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ supervision.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos is the architect of modern Oman. In the context of almost 50 years, what he has accomplished for his country and its people is astounding.
His Majesty’s influence and effort on nation-building and the immense effect on the evolution of artistic culture in Oman is exemplary.
Throughout his lifetime, HM Qaboos made it clear that the growth and evolution of Oman’s cultural and artistic aspects were critical to him. He was especially fond of classical music and Mozart in specific was his favourite classical composer.
The following are just a few historical facts about the level of extensive work His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has done in the formation of Oman’s musical, cultural and artistic identity.
In 1983 His Majesty ordered the collection and inventory of arts in the Sultanate. As a result of the collection and the abundance of information collected, His Majesty ordered that the Oman Centre for Traditional Music be established in 1984.
The centre organised the International Symposium of Omani Traditional Music in 1985, and the centre received several awards. Among them is a prize from Unesco in 2002 and an award from the Arab League in 2005.
In addition to the collection, documentation, and fieldwork of the centre, it also conducts conferences, seminars, and forums, the most prominent of which was the first Arab Historians Forum held in 2014 and 2015.
Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra (ROSO) was the manifestation of His Majesty’s love for music and his grand vision for Oman’s future.
His Majesty truly believed that music and arts were detrimental to the growth of the young Omani generation.
His fondness with music and arts led the new Omani generation to flourish in a more modern, diverse, and sophisticated Oman.
In 1985 Sultan Qaboos decided to support a project of the national symphonic orchestra. But there was a caveat. He wanted the new orchestra to be entirely made of Omani artists. Back in 1985, this was impossible as the musical talent and staff in Oman was very much underdeveloped and unpolished.
The idea of classical music in and of itself was quite new to the people of Oman. Nevertheless, this was a temporary issue in the face of Sultan Qaboos’ undying dream to successfully complete this quest.
Recruitment of young Omani children who had an innate talent for music was the first step of the project.
These handpicked students would be sent to boarding schools where in addition to their standard school curriculum, they would also receive rigorous musical training.
It took many years for this batch of 1985 to be nurtured, and His Majesty oversaw and supported them through it all.
This effort would go on to give its fruits and propel the nation and its people towards a more enriching and colourful future.
ROSO would go on to have a significant milestone in its young but passionate lifetime in August 2007, where they performed at The Berlin Konzerthaus and shocked the world with its fantastic display of talent and musical prowess.
HM Sultan Qaboos ordered the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) to be built back in 2001. Being such a spectacular project, it took 10 years to complete. At first, it was meant to be named ‘House of Musical Arts,’ yet upon its completion; it was changed to the name it carries today.
The grandiosity of ROHM as a venue stands as one of many splendid monuments to the progress, modernity, and beauty His Majesty has brought to Oman during the last 50 years. Since its opening, ROHM has become the centre of arts and culture not only in the Sultanate but in the region as a whole.
In his Royale Address, His Majesty said: “We have reached a moment in the long history of our nation when it is time to embrace the concept of world culture and take part in its development on a wider scale. It is in this spirit that we have established the Royal Opera House Muscat – for the people of Oman and for humanity at large. In all our international endeavours, we enact Oman’s wider mission in playing a constructive role in the dialogue among civilizations. Enriching cultural exchange and fostering ties of friendship and collaboration that will endure. We have no doubt that Royal Opera House Muscat will contribute to the expansion of world heritage in its noble ideals of peace, harmony, and understanding among all people, as they share meaningful and deeply felt cultural legacies through the performing arts.”
I have no doubt that the generation His Majesty nurtured will go on to carry his legacy and move this nation forward towards greater prosperity and development.
Let us try our best to stay true to his ideal and help bring up the young generation of children who we hope will go on to influence and change the world for the better.

The writer is a former piano teacher in the Department of Music and Musicology in the Arts and Social Sciences College at SQU and is an Associate Professor at Hajibeyov Baku Academy of Music, Azerbaijan. She has published several scientific papers and attended various pedagogical conferences in different countries. She is presently director and piano teacher at the Muscat Music & Art Academy (MMAA). –